Every time I walk down the 700 block of Fort Street or the 1000 block of Blanshard, there is some new new place to eat and it is rarely anything boring. Just in the last few months the area has seen a new bahn mi place, a very bright and welcoming tea shop and a cool photo themed coffee house. Go for another walk in a month and there will be a couple more places that have never been tried. This is the Blanshard-Fort Food Market!
The Market is bound by Broughton on the south, Douglas on the West, View on the North and Quadra on the East. Along these four blocks of commercial buildings you will find over thirty-five different eateries, cafes and stores representing at least twelve nationalities. You can literally eat along here everyday and not get anywhere close to being bored.
Walking along the sidewalk you could be fooled into thinking that this area has always been like this, but it hasn’t. Even fifteen years ago, the area was dominated by shops selling various wares, vacant store fronts and a couple of bakeries. The growth of the market has been fuelled by a number of different things coming together in the right way.
First, it is likely that the loss of some brick and mortar stores due to the rise of the internet caused an increasing number of the storefronts to be vacant. This further depressed the lease costs on the increasing amount of empty spaces.
The second key to the birth of the Food Market is the general nature of the commercial spaces that dominate the area. The actual store fronts are very small and there are a lot of them. The size of the places would make the shops less expensive than a larger space, this gives new business owners a lower threshold to start-up and likely to try things that are a little more adventurous. The bonus that this creates for the pedestrian is that the different restaurants are closer together. It also creates a vitality that you are not going to get in an area that has a lot of gaps between the different spaces. It is interesting that likely the largest commercial space on any of these four blocks has remained empty for years since Staples left.
A third reason that this area has been successful is the increase in population both in Harris Green and Downtown. As I have said in many different contexts, the secret ingredient to great neighbourhoods is having enough people to create vibrancy. For a good food district to survive you need a mix of daytime office workers and nighttime residents. We are just now beginning to see the benefit of the condos and apartments built over the last decade. As the next wave of buildings finishes they will have a greater impact that will benefit all of us.
The final spark that led to the Blanshard-Fort Market was that there were already a few amazing long time food places in the area. Some of those old stalwarts include the Dutch Bakery, Bond Bond’s and the Italian Deli. So people wanting something good to eat were already drawn to the area. It was natural for other restaurants to open nearby.
With the redevelopments occurring along the 800 block Fort Street, I hope that the City has taken note of the unique attributes of this food zone and will ensure that the new commercial spaces are not built too far apart and that we don’t see anything at the ground floor like an office to break-up the wonderful flow we have now.
As I said, this area is dynamic so this list is likely to change by the day, still here are a couple of current favourite places in the Blanshard-Fort Food Market.
If you want tacos, you have three great choices but if I am going to choose just one I will go with La Taqueria.
If you want noodles, you can choose between at least two Pho places, one Chinese noodle places and a great ramen place. My favourite is definitely Menbow Ramen along the 1000 block of Blanshard but don’t let that limit you.
For baked treats you can visit the Dutch Bakery, Bond Bond’s or Crust. If you read my Bakery post you know I have a soft spot for Crust but I still go to the other two places for some specific treats.
For a quick snack it would be hard to beat the new Ba Le Bahn Mi place that has recently opened up. It is fast, cheap and delicious.
If you want coffee, there is the obvious with Starbucks right in the middle but I definitely love Discovery Coffee at the corner of Broughton and Blanshard. I have not yet had a chance to try the brand new Bokeh Cafe but it certainly looks appealing from a walk by. There is also Dak and the Ground Control Cafe so lots of options for your caffeine fix.
A couple more that I love are Choux Choux Charcuterie, the Italian Deli, Chorizo and Co., Yalla and the Pink Bicycle. Of course, being completely honest I have maybe only tried half the places along here so I am likely missing out big time.
What are your favourite places in the Blanshard-Fort Food Market? Which place should be at the top of my list for next week?